SBD/October 29, 2013/Facilities

Rich McKay: Falcons Won't Back Off Elaborate Stadium Design Despite Rising Costs

Falcons execs insist on the stadium's roof being a featured design element
The Falcons yesterday revealed that the "projected cost of their new downtown stadium has risen" to $1.2B, a jump of $200M from the figure the team "long used as a ballpark estimate," according to Tim Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. But the increase "does not change the amount of taxpayer money going into the project." Falcons President & CEO Rich McKay attributed the revised budget to "a variety of factors, including the plan for an 'iconic' eight-sided design, complex retractable roof and 62,000-square-foot video screen within the roof opening." He added that the costs of "property acquisition, related road work and weather-proofing an indoor-outdoor facility" also were "driving the price higher." McKay: "We never wavered from the design. As opposed to backing off from it to get to a budget that was in a document somewhere, we continued to enhance it, so that drives a lot of that (added) cost." He added, "The roof is not the most simplistic and therefore is not inexpensive. But it was an element we wanted because it really sold the idea to us that the roof is a design element … whereas in many other buildings it is completely nondescript." Tucker notes bonds "backed by Atlanta's hotel-motel tax" will cover $200M of the cost of building the stadium. The rest will "come from the Falcons, the NFL and personal seat license sales." The NFL agreed in May to provide $200M, but the Falcons "haven't said how much" of the remaining $800M they hope to raise from PSLs. The revised projected cost is "in the ballpark with the current generation of NFL stadiums" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 10/29).

TURF WAR: Tucker reports the Falcons "decided that their new stadium will have artificial turf, rather than natural grass." 360 Architecture Senior Principal Bill Johnson said that the Falcons "originally hoped for a grass field in the planned retractable-roof stadium but decided against it after a detailed 'sun study analysis.'" McKay said that plans to use the stadium for other events "complicated the idea of natural grass." He added, "We did everything we could to solve for a grass field." McKay said that if the city is awarded an MLS expansion team, it "would play on artificial turf." But he added that a temporary grass field "could be installed for events such as international soccer games that require it" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 10/29).
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